Free Press Journal

The Bhais of Bengaluru by Jyoti Shelar: Review


Title of book: The Bhais of Bengaluru
Author: Jyoti Shelar
Publisher: Blue Salt Penguin Books
Pages: 213
Price: Rs 299

The book’s striking cover image, with bullets loaded in a revolver’s chamber makes it evident that this book is about the gritty underworld. The book, divided into 21 chapters, begins with how ruler Kempe Gowda founded Bengaluru on a piece of land he believed was heroic after having seen a tiny hare chasing a dog during a hunting expedition.

In the first chapter, the author speaks of how every locality had at least one tough, well-built man who commanded respect and fear – Malleshwaram had Market Jaggi, Kalasipalya had Ganpathy, Srirampura had Miyan Pehelwan, and Shivajinagar had its Pehelwans. Till then, there was no trace of what Kannadigas call ‘Bhugataloka’ or the underworld and the city was still unfamiliar to organised crime or notorious criminals.

In the chapter ‘From Pehelwans to Bhugataloka’, readers are introduced to Bengaluru’s first powerful rowdy in the 1960s, Mune Gowda, whose mere presence in a room was enough to intimidate people and who went about collecting mamool (a Kannada term for extortion money). A dozen young, well-built locals armed with swords decided to teach him a lesson, but face-to-face with him, only one managed to land a strike, which cost Mune Gowda three fingers of his right hand. His womanising ways proved to be his Achilles heel though. His opponents made a woman feed him crushed glass mixed with his food. Then in the 1970s, it was from Bengaluru’s once-revered wrestling houses that the city got its most dangerous and notorious don.

Then CM of Karnataka Devraj Urs, a staunch follower of Mrs Indira Gandhi, had his daughter married to Nataraj, who formed the Indira Brigade – an unorganised group of muscular men. This gave birth to a rowdy, who with strong political backing shaped the organised crime world of Bengaluru. Robbery Jayaraj’s brand equity increased after his entry in to the Indira Brigade and he started a tabloid ‘Garibi Hatavo’ against corrupt cops. But on January 25, 1977, Jayaraj’s attack on an opponent in the court room changed his fate and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The void created by Jayaraj’s absence was sought to be filled by Kotwal Ramchandra and ‘Oil Kumar’. After Jayaraj got out of jail, Oil Kumar tried to bump off Jayaraj by using Kotwal. When Jayaraj’s men were after him, Kotwal ended up falling in to Sreedhar’s hands, who sought revenge against Kotwal for the attack against his brother.

Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Sharad Shetty was a close friend of Muthappa Rai, who eliminated Jayaraj and Oil Kumar. Rai later escaped to Dubai and to get in Dawood’s good books, he revealed Chhota Rajan’s location to Dawood so that he could eliminate him. In 2003, Chhota Rajan had Sharad Shetty shot. After being deported from Dubai, Rai decided to live a reformed life.